Diversity in faith formation

'''God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). For those of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus, this Gospel is both a comfort and a commission... At the same time, this truth is the Good News that Christ commanded his disciples to announce to the whole world. By her nature, then, the Church is a divine communion formed by and in Christ for the missionary work of evangelization, the work of bringing the Gospel of Christ to all peoples."

These words are from the introductory paragraph of the document "Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston." They remind us that just as in the early Church, the Gospel was preached from Israel to Rome to Turkey to Greece and beyond, so too in our day, disciples of Christ continue this proclamation both near and far.

Our archdiocese is rich in culture and diversity with Mass celebrated in 21 languages every weekend. To better respect the diversity of cultures among us, the archdiocese has made a commitment to provide the best evangelization and faith formation resources, as well as support and spiritual growth opportunities to all our ethnic communities. These ethnic groups come from countries where the practice of the faith is rich in culture and tradition. Those serving in the Office of Ethnic Faith Formation and Missionary Discipleship make every effort to provide programs that will enrich the practice of the faith in these communities. Additionally, they offer assistance and support to those who work with the various ethnic groups. This fall, there are two programs being offered within the archdiocese that are intent on building up these communities and the people who minister in them.

On Oct. 25-27, the Office of Ethnic Faith Formation and Missionary Discipleship and the Office of Clergy Personnel will be hosting an Enculturation Program, which is an orientation for foreign priests who are or will be serving in the archdiocese. This year's enculturation program will host priests from Cape Verde, Brazil, Spain, Haiti, Ethiopia, Nigeria, India, Panama and Poland. The purpose of this program is to help these priests become acclimated to life in the Archdiocese of Boston, to our history and culture while holding onto their own distinct culture. Over the course of three days, the 11 priests in the program will meet with staff from different offices at the Pastoral Center. Some of the topics to be discussed relate to canonical affairs, Tribunal information, chaplaincy and hospital ministry, rectory living and opportunities for spiritual development and, of course, Disciples in Mission! Additional topics of a more practical nature such as, American values, privacy, etiquette, seasonal changes, holidays, and punctuality will also be addressed. Since not all of these priests are fluent in English, there will be Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish interpreters available to assist throughout the program.

A second program, Growing Together In Faith on Oct. 29 is a collaborative effort of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. The program will be hosted by Boston College at Trinity Chapel on the Boston College Law School campus. This event is for leaders of Portuguese-speaking communities to meet, share their faith, and learn more about formation opportunities. The afternoon's conversation will focus on our Catholic faith and imagining possibilities for growing in faith together. The session will conclude with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

These programs are just two of the ways that the archdiocese is networking and collaborating to better respond to the multi-cultural reality of the Church in Boston. Additionally, the workshop materials for Disciples in Mission are already available in English and Vietnamese and will soon be available in Spanish, French and Portuguese. All of these efforts make it possible to do the missionary work of evangelization, the work of bringing the Gospel of Christ to everyone. They will hopefully strengthen our parishes and make them places of welcome to all. The archdiocese is committed to honoring the diversity of cultures through the diverse programs and the support it offers and to making the archdiocese a place of welcome and faith.

- Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Pastoral Planning.